Have you ever been sore after a workout before? Ha, who am I kidding of course you have, I’m sure many of us have felt that kind of muscles soreness after an bout of physical exercise that was above our normal tolerance level. This effect that tends to happen the next day or even a few days later (why is always worse 2 days after?) is known as “Delayed Onset Of Muscle Soreness” or DOMS for short. While it’s not entirely known why this soreness happens, it’s widely thought that it is part of the repair process to micro-trauma in the muscles and is made especially worse when we perform a lot of eccentric muscle actions (lengthening of the muscle contraction, i.e. lowering the dumbbell in a bicep curl exercise).
I can remember a conversation I had with a new client of mine a few years back, she said something along the lines of “Oh sweet joseph! My legs are sore from last workout shouldn’t w just stretch… for the love of Pete let’s just stretch… or nap.” Of course she was kidding about the nap (or was she?). I explained to her that while the DOMS effect might make you think you should just stretch or do nothing, the opposite can actually help to alleviate the soreness. Exercising can actually help to reduce the DOMS effect. So before you throw in the towel on your workout know that showing up again for another training session might just be the very thing you need to get the blood moving and the DOMS taken care of.
Here are a few other tips to relieve sore muscles:
– Get a massage (I recommend everyone get a massage at least once a month)
– Stay hydrated
– Eat plenty of nutritious fruits and veggies
– And while I have no scientific evidence, a low sodium diet seems to help me or at least when I have more salt in my diet after a hard workout I am “hobbled” sore.
Having said that, there are a few caveats when it comes to DOMS and working out.
The first caveat is that you soreness should only last 24-72 hours at most and 72 is the high end. If you are still sore after that you can rest assured you likely over did it in your last workout, think about taking it easy for a few workouts.
The second caveat is that it’s important to know the difference between muscle soreness and something worse like a strain or a pull. Pain = NO GAIN and you should take time off and perhaps see your physician if it worsens.
The third and final caveat is that it’s important to know that being sore after a workout shouldn’t be the goal. Your purpose for working out is to get better at something and to improve your health. While most of us sometimes wear the soreness as confirmation of a workout (I’m guilty of this sometimes as well) there is no science behind performance and health improvement and muscle soreness. Chase progress not soreness.